On 10 May 2018, 6.30pm, l departed from home to Senai Airport to Penang. LH fetched me at Penang Airport at about 9.30pm. I rested in Butterworth for a night.
On the next day, I had a brief sightseeing at Butterworth and ate local Penang food. I visited some temples and later went back to prepare lunch to welcome SW from Teluk Intan. At about 5 pm, our tour van picked three of us (SW, LH and myself) on the doorstep. Together with SL and Suan Poh from Alor Star cum Aunt YS from Sungai Petani, a total of six siblings, joined ACE Tours & Travel (Pg), a 10D7N-Turkey Tours led by tour leader Mdm Yvonne, met up at Silk Air Check-in Counter 17 in Penang airport.
I was, fortunately, to meet up with an old secondary classmate, Annie Lim at the airport. We managed to chat for about 30 minutes after 40 years of separation.
Our tour boarded at 2115 in flight-Ml353. The in-flight services were excellent. We transited at Changi airport to board SQ392 at 0145 to Istanbul. We were given long haul travel pack each, consisted of socks, toothbrush set, earplugs besides blankets and pillows. We were served with sumptuous ‘supper’ before light off for sleeping. In between, we were also served with numerous snacks, drinks, and red wine. Next morning, breakfast was served before landing in Istanbul airport at about 0740. (Istanbul is 5 hours behind time).
Istanbul welcomed us with the clear and chilled weather. We got down the planes via aero stairs and transported via airport bus to the terminal. This terminal was very busy and crowded with passengers transited to Europe and Asia. The shops were very colourful and selling attractive souvenirs and foodstuff.
Day 1+1. After immigration clearance, we were received by the local tour guide, Deniz Yolal and coach driver of Dorak Tour Turkiye. We embarked on our first destination-to Roman Hippodrome where horse chariot aces and events were held, followed by Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camil), one of the largest religious complex in Istanbul, which was just nearby. Next, we visited Haghia Sophia– a church that has converted into a mosque, and now a museum.
We had our first local lunch at Prince Restaurant Cafe, which served grilled chicken sticks with rice, salad, mushroom soup.
After lunch, we visited Topkapi Palace– the seat of the Ottoman Empire, after it shifted its capital from Bursa to Istanbul. It is today, a museum palace with a wide collection of Kitchen wares and Porcelains, Treasuries, Royal Antiques, Courtyards, Holy Relics etc.
Later, we were driven along the Sea of Marmara to the Gallipoli Peninsula, where so many troops lost their lives. We crossed the Dardanelles Straits by ferry to Canakkale. We had our late buffet dinner in the hotel Ide Kale Resort Otel.
The rooms in this resort were scattered around the beach. We had to climb 2nd floor to reach our room with big luggage. As we were too tired to climb up the higher floor, so we tended to sleep in triplet sharing instead of twin sharing as booked. However, the room was huge and comfortably for more three pax.
Day 3. The next morning, we had a buffet breakfast. We enjoyed the sea breeze, huge friendly dogs and took lots of nice photos with pretty, palm-size roses in the resort.
Later, we checked out and proceeded to Troy (UNESCO World Heritage List), where Greek and Trojan heroes fought the Trojan War for the honor of the beautiful Helen. Besides, we also visited its legendary walls, building and famous Wooden Horse and Ruins.
Next, we departed for Pergamon to visit Asklepion. The Asklepion a healing temple in Ancient Greece, as important as its counterparts in Epidaurus and Kos. What we saw today is merely a ruined temple with Greek architecture pillars, a water-pipe connected to hot spring in the middle of this ruined temple. This magic water was used for healing all kinds of mental sickness in those days.
After lunch, we visited Turkish Delights and Olive Oil outlet center for a stopover. Then we proceeded along scenic, picturesque coastal road to Kusadasi, a popular tourist place at Turkey’s Western Aegean Coast for our second overnight. We checked into Hotel Marina. We had buffet dinner in the hotel. The cuisine was almost similar to the first night. As it was a long ride of the day, we rested in the hotel instead of strolling along this popular town.
Day 4. On the third day morning, we took wonderful photos with Aegean Coast as background. After breakfast and hotel check out, we visited Ephesus (UNESCO World Heritage List), one of the world’s finest archeological sites, where we visited the Arcadia way, the splendid facade of the Library of Celsus and see the amphitheaters, which is still used for concerts. We strolled down the memory lane, imagined the incredible social activities in this kingdom almost 3,000 years ago. Women of that era were kept at home. The township was for men hood. We ‘saw’ the ruins of ancient male toilets, brothel harbours, trade activities’. In was amazing and imaginary. The ruin was so ‘vibrant’ in those days. Could we also play a role in this community as we believed strongly in reincarnation?
Next, we visited the famous local production center for leather Outlet and enjoyed a live fashion show. Two female tour mates and a male tour mate were invited to catwalk on the stage. Some members bought the leather jackets with almost 70% discounted price.
Before lunch, we stopped by to tour the extensive Ruins of Hierapolis. I didn’t study world history during my school days, hence this ruin seen alien to me.
Our last destination for that day was Pamukkale “Cotton castle” (UNESCO World Heritage List), where Calcareous hot springs descending over cliffs have created fascinating travertines in the form of white terrace and basins. The place was rather crowded and the sun was too bright. We only dipped for a short while and gave ways to other visitors. However, we enjoyed tasting local ice-cream under a big tree. The sky was still very clear even though we left this place at around 6 pm.
The overnight stay in Pam Hotel was a bit special. We had in-house buffet dinner with lots of choices. We got a chance to dip into the warm thermal pools just beside our rooms. The pool water was highly warm at about 43 degrees. The water appeared muddy to us. We dipped for about 15 minutes while appreciating belly dance performance by the poolside. Then, we went back to shower in our room and dozed off instantly.
Day 5. At around 8 am the next morning, we checked out from the hotel and moved on to visit Konya. Konya was the center of the Seljuk Empire as well as the city of Mevlana and the Whirling Dervishes. We also visited another nearby Mevlana Museum, also known as the Green Dome. This site was the original lodge of the Mevlevi Whirling Dervishes, a mystical Sufi Muslim Group. It contained the tomb and shrine of the Mevlana, or Rumi, which remained as an important place of pilgrimage.
Next, we had a 5 hours coach ride before reaching our next destination, Cappadocia. We were tireless in the coach as the scenery along the way was picturesque, full of greenery agricultures and plantation. We saw three volcanic peaks which erupted lava to fertile the soil in this area. In between, we visited Ores in Caravanserai, a 13th-century outstanding example of the Inns used by traders during the Silk Road. We took some fantastic pictures inside the building.
Finally, we reached Cappadocia in the evening and checked into Ramadan Hotel for two nights. Some tour members complaint why we did not stay in Cave-Hotel as promised by the Tour Company.
Day 6. On the sixth day of the tour,18 tour members inclusive my own siblings signed in for an optional hot air balloon ride while floating over beautiful Cappadocia.
At dusk, we were picked up by Turkey Hot air balloon Company to the site. We were served simple snacks, Nescafe/ tea, cookies while waiting for the balloon to be blown up. It was indeed quite interesting to watch the preparation. Once the huge balloon was ready, we crawled inside a 24-pax basket, 6, 5, 7 in each compartment respectively. The middle compartment was for a pilot and his assistant to monitor the heat and direct the balloon to rise gradually and floating swiftly in 360 degrees. It was indeed a lifetime experience. Bird viewing on the natural eroded landscape, geological rocks formation was simply awesome and breathtaking. We floated for about an hour with court less photo-taking. Finally, the balloon set down slowly. We were told to bend down the body for the balloon to be adjusted and parked exactly onto a truck. The entire ride was complete with champagne cheer up, joys of accomplishment and award of certificates ceremony.
Once the ride was over, we were sent back to the hotel to have our buffet breakfast and continued our other site visits. That morning until noon, we visited Derwent Valley & Pasabag Valley. These valleys had unique volcanic formations. We took lots of pictures at the Valley of the Birds and at the foot of the Uchisar Castle.
We had our lunch in Avanos Village which located in between lanes of shops. This place appeared quite similar to the Jonker walk-in Malacca. The only difference was, there were some child beggars approaching tourists for money along this street.
After lunch, we visited famous local Pottery Work Shop, followed by local Carpet Weaving cooperative to see hand—made Turkish carpets.
Upon returning to the hotel, we were asked to have some bite/ brief dinner in the hotel. That night, we could enjoy traditional Turkish Cuisines with unlimited local wine, beer, and soft drink while entertained by mesmerizing belly dance performances, folk dance and whirling dervish. However, we were too exhausted and almost dozed off. We slept on the tour bus before the end of the shows while waiting for other crowds to dismiss.
Day 7. We departed from Cappadocia after breakfast, to Ankara, the capital of Turkey. We traveled to en route Salt Lake, the second largest lake in Turkey and a huge source for the local salt market. After lunch, we went to Ataturk Mausoleum – the final resting place of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk- father of modern Turkey.
In the evening, we were transferred to Balu for dinner and overnight.
Day 8. This morning, we drove back to Istanbul. Along the way, we experienced scenic, breathtaking view of Sapanca Lake, a freshwater lake in Turkey. As we were approaching Istanbul- a metropolitan, traffic was heavily flown. We crossed the second bridge between Asia and Europe. Europe side was more advanced and vibrant than the Asia side, which had more greener pastures. Every day, many people commute from Asia side to Europe side either by any of the three bridges or by 5 minutes boat ride to work.
Our lunch was held in an old city of Istanbul. This old city was called Cosmopolitan, a capital of Roman Empire. During those old days, Cruises sailed under Karata bridge to Black sea for fishing activities.
However, our lunch was delayed as most of the roads were blocked due to the preparation for an ad hoc parliamentary meeting on that late afternoon. Our tour guide informed us that her country would be having a General Election within a month. Hence, lots of political parties were actively campaign, days and nights. The bad traffic jam and unforeseen roadblocks prevented our coach to reach our lunch venue. To no avail, our tour guide transited us via Tram for four stations to our lunch venue. It was our very first awesome experience in European Tram-ride for lunch.
We had our first Chinese lunch inside a theme park by the lakeside, surrounded by blossoms of colourful roses. Most of us missed Chinese cuisine and this lunch just timely to quench our appetize.
After lunch, we were given 2 hours, free and easy shopping at the famous Grand Bazaar. This bazaar is one of the largest covered markets in the world with more than 58 streets and 4,000 shops. It was indeed an eye-opening. Turkish retailers are very polite and friendly. They won’t get upset over extreme bargaining from the customers. After shopping, we went for a cruise ride to have a closer view of both Asia side and Europe side.
The cruise ride was relaxing, breezy and comfortable. Immediately after the cruise ride, we strolled along Istiklal Street near Taksim Square, cobblestone pedestrian street lined with shops, café, etc.
In the very late evening, we had another round of Oriental dinner in Korean Chinese Restaurant. As the roads stick blocked for the ad hoc Governmental event, we still need to walk for a far cry of 30 minutes to this restaurant. The food was preheated but served very fast. Later, we were transferred to hotel for our last night in Turkey.
Day 9. We had a relaxing morning, buffet breakfast and chit chatted while waiting for airport transfer. Finally, we boarded SQ391 at 1330, Turkish time for a 10-hours long-haul flight to Changi. We had lots of stuff on the plane.
Day 10+1. Our flight touched down Changi, early dusk. I broke the transit-link-ML346 to Penang as scheduled. Instead, I checked out from Changi airport back home to Johor Bahru. Between, I was overwhelmed to welcome my 2nd grandson-Rainer Tay in Singapore.
It was indeed a memorable experience to travel with my siblings. We left behind our footprints in the ruins and brought back sweet memories and awesome photos.
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